Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2007

Neighborhoods

  • + Ahwatukee
  • + Anthem
  • + Apache Junction
  • + Avondale
  • + Buckeye
  • + California
  • + Carefree
  • + Cave Creek
  • + Central Phoenix
  • + Central Scottsdale
  • + Chandler
  • + East Phoenix
  • + El Mirage
  • + Fountain Hills
  • + Gilbert
  • + Glendale
  • + Goodyear
  • + Higley
  • + Laveen
  • + Litchfield Park
  • + Mesa
  • + Nevada
  • + New River
  • + North Phoenix
  • + North Scottsdale
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside the Valley
  • + Palo Verde
  • + Paradise Valley
  • + Peoria
  • + Queen Creek
  • + South Phoenix
  • + South Scottsdale
  • + Sun City
  • + Surprise
  • + Tempe
  • + Tolleson
  • + Unknown
  • + Waddell
  • + West Phoenix
  • + Youngtown
Map It

Arts & Entertainment

Bars & Clubs

Food & Drink

La Vida

People & Places

Shopping & Services

Readers' Choice

MORE

Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

BEST SPORTS GIMP

The Big Unit? More like the Busted Unit. All right, whose freakin' idea was it to bring back Randy Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks? What has this former world champion baseball team become, a charity for cranky, worn-out pitchers?

The 43-year-old Johnson — who ranks up there with Ty Cobb historically as one of the biggest jerks in the game — maybe had one good year left. And this season was it. Now he won't be back until next season? Well, we guess the D-Backs are stuck with him, no matter how decrepit he'll be by spring training 2008. When the New York Yankees are through with a player, that should tell you something. They're the most successful franchise ever, and they didn't get that way by running a rest home for old and infirm pitching greats. When you're used up, you're out! But the D-Backs front office just had this compulsion to bring back one of the stars of the team's 2001 World Series campaign in the midst of rebuilding the lineup with young talent.

Look, we're not saying Randy Johnson wasn't the bomb. He was! He's a future Hall of Famer who's got the third-most strikeouts in history. With 284 wins, he's a five-time Cy Young Award winner. In his prime, he could throw a fastball more than 100 miles per hour, and his signature pitch was a blistering slider. Batters felt like the proverbial Davids when the height of the pitcher's mound was added to Johnson's 6-feet-10. We all watched him throw a perfect game (his second) in 2004 against the Braves.

The only reason to keep Johnson around at the money he commands — $9.15 million in '07 — would be to see if he could break Nolan Ryan's 5,714 career strikeout record, or to see if he could become one of the elite pitchers to win 300 games. And with the herniated disc problems he's faced over the past few years, those feats could take more seasons than even a ridiculously charitable team is willing to finance. But more than that, we deserve a consistent winner here again, and the Unit's no longer part of the recipe for that.

BEST PLACE TO REVEL IN THE DESERT
Tovrea Castle Carraro Cactus Garden

The City of Phoenix's ongoing renovation of Tovrea Castle, one of the Valley's premier oddball landmarks, has given us hope that Phoenix has finally learned to spell "p-r-e-s-e-r-v-a-t-i-o-n." The estate — which looks like a royal wedding cake defended by a swarm of palace-guard saguaros — was built by Italian entrepreneur Alessio Carraro and named after meat-packing magnate Edward Tovrea, who bought the baronial digs for his wife, Della, in 1931. The sentinel saguaros are part of the Castle's spectacular Carraro Cactus Garden, which was designed and planted by Alessio and his sons in 1928. Until recently, it was a secret garden, opened to the public only once, in 1984, for one lousy weekend. But the city introduced regular public tours in early '07, and guided walks through our arid little Eden — which is packed to the gills with both common and exotic samples of high- and low-Sonoran Desert flora — are now scheduled each January through May.

5041 E. Van Buren, Phoenix, 85008
MAP
602-256-3220
BEST PLACE TO REVEL IN THE DESSERT
Amazing Jake's Food and Fun

Why do kids (and the parents who pay for them) love Amazing Jake's Food and Fun, the indoor amusement extravaganza in Mesa?

Ask Anna, age 9: "They have brownies, which are so good. And chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream — vanilla, chocolate and swirl. They have all different choices of desserts, too. Last time I went there, it was lemon meringue squares. I think they had oatmeal cookies. I didn't have any of those. I had the brownies and the chocolate chip cookies and the ice cream. And they're all really good. Some cookies are really hard and crunchy. I hate those kind. But these, like, they have crisp outsides, not crunchy, but just crisp and the inside is really soft and the chocolate chips are kind of melted, and the brownies are, like, so soft that if you tear it apart, some of it will stick together. They have an old-fashioned carousel, which you don't really see very often. They have a train ride where you can sit in the front and ring the bell. I like the Hopper because you go up up up up up and then down and up and down and up and down and as many of those as you want to. And such cool prizes. They have bicycles. It's all-you-can-eat and the pizza is delicious — like, I am not a girl who likes the curly macaroni, but I have got to say I have never had this good of pasta. It's just right. It has the perfect sauce, it has olives, and they have vegetarian stuff like salads, corn, which my friend Rocky says is disgusting — don't put that — because she was trying to see if she could have all healthy and she took one bite and I don't know how you write this, but she went like this [makes a face like the guy from Munch's The Scream] after too many rides on the Hopper. The only way to explain Amazing Jake's is that it's amazing. No, that's an exclamation mark."

1830 E. Baseline Rd., Mesa, 85204
MAP
480-926-7499
BEST PLACE TO ROLL AROUND IN THE DESSERT

It only makes sense that things might get a little wild in Phoenix. After all, we're living in a land settled by outcasts, criminals, and whores. That restlessness still exists in the desert air and has certainly been huffed by Phoenix's very own Dirty Darlins of Debauchery, the first and only female pudding-wrestling league in Arizona. These hot mamas, clad in fishnets, tattoos, piercings, and rainbow-colored hair, love to fulfill many a man's fantasy by viciously body-slamming each other in a kiddy pool full of pudding. It gets pretty brutal — they put on a show that has the kinkiness of Larry Flynt, the moves of WWE, and a marketing ploy for pudding that rivals Bill Cosby. The slippery sex kittens compete frequently at clubs around the Valley that don't mind being a little sticky. Careful with these gorgeous girls, however, because they are tough broads whom we wouldn't want to cross. Their MySpace quote says, "Fear our Snack Pack Skillz." And we certainly do.

BEST RESORT POOL
Sanctuary Resort & Spa

It's not the biggest pool in town, and it's not even the flashiest (you won't find any fountains or water slides at this serene spot), but there are still three good reasons why the pool at Sanctuary on Camelback is our favorite place for a swim: location, location, location. Nestled amidst an oasis of lush palm trees and palo verdes that lazily wave in the breeze, it looks like a placid turquoise lagoon under the big, blue Arizona sky, with a sweet view of Camelback Mountain and the Praying Monk rock formation practically hovering over us. Sanctuary also claims its pool has the biggest infinity edge in the state — we love to swim right up to it, listening to the soothing sound of water splashing over glossy mosaic tiles. After we've turned into prunes, the surrounding flagstone patio is the perfect place to chill on a sleek white lounge chair and sip a cold piña colada from a curvy lime-green cup (which happens to be the same exact shade as the beach towels here). People come from all over the country to stay at this stylish Paradise Valley enclave, but we're thrilled that we can go there anytime we want — when we can scrounge up the cash, that is.

5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley, 85253
MAP
480-607-2339
BEST SPA
Spa at Camelback Inn

We hate to sound like a broken record, but once again, this year's honor for Best Spa must go to our all-time favorite, the Spa at Camelback Inn. As a friend recently waxed (heh heh, get it?), "You feel so close to the desert, it's like you can actually reach up and touch the cactus." And it's true — snuggled in your thick white robe, stretched out on an impossibly comfortable chaise next to a clear blue swimming pool, beneath Mummy Mountain, you do feel as if you could reach up and grab a prickly handful.

Instead, head indoors for a Sonoran Rose facial, Native Hot Stone massage, Desert Rain loofah or Desert Nectar honey wrap. Or what the heck — get all four. You only live once, and what better place to blow your spending money than this lovely spa, featuring a sauna, hot tub and private spaces for all-out sunbathing, if you know what we mean. Rent a cabana, take some exercise classes and grab a mani-pedi. We're relaxed just writing about it.

5402 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley, 85253
MAP
480-948-1700
X

BEST SPORTS GIMP: Randy Johnson

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >